Posted by: glue | September 4, 2008

Flash Reason

Who is the “Socrates” of electracy? That is, who is charged with corrupting the young? Whose behavior draws a crowd and serves as gadfly, challenging the received assumptions and values of society? This post may be filled with any celebrity in principle. Britney was number one in Yahoo search not long ago, and she and Paris were used as the icons in the attack ad for candidate John McCain attempting to tar Obama with the brush of mere celebrity. The paparazzi inscribing Britney in infospace recorded her in the upskirt genre of pornography, and that image should become, if it is not already, an emblem of what it is to be/have image.

Socrates Today

Socrates Today

What we are learning from our celebrities is what it is to become an image. This image that celebrities already are marks the site of avatar. You know you are electrate when you begin to experience yourself as an image. To avatar (verb) is to manage this condition (to learn its rhetoric). The story told about Cary Grant indexes the experience: in response to those who said they would like to be Cary Grant, Grant replied, “so would I.” Mariah Carey was quoted once as complaining that her image was having more fun than she was. Ordinary netizens are beginning to encounter the effects of celebritude when their FaceBook or MySpace accounts are used to judge the contents of their character.

These anecdotes suggest a continuity between the invention of selfhood in literacy and that of the avatar in electracy. Plato, in Phaedrus, has Socrates critizing the written word because it wanders away from its parent/author and goes about in the world unprotected and only capable of repeating itself. The primary issue reported from the vanguard of apparatus shift is the experience of slippage in one’s identity, a loss of control of the I/Me relation and even loss of the sense of having an authentic core self (see the case of John Edwards’ involvement with Rielle life). The “self” emerged in Classical Greece through the experience associated with reading and writing, in which authors noticed their thought and especially their insights arose within their own minds, and were not voices or visitations by spirits arriving from outside.

Selfhood was never something that happened by itself, but was rather a potential that could be realized through the work of education: Aristotle’s entelechy applied to human identity. Pindar’s admontion to “become who one is” was taken up by Nietzsche in modernity (Werde der du bist), indicating the consistency of the problem of individuation throughout the epoch of literacy. Hegel generalized the authenticating movement of alienation into the dialectic of world historical progress, allegorized most commonly in the journey of Ulysses away from and return to home.

What is the movement of avatar?


  1. Celebritney

    The Way Must Pass Between The Commodity and Pornography, as Giorgio Agamben observed. Apologies for the Britney Shot, but further entries on avatar will hopefully justify quoting it, or clarify my claims for its emblematic status (or does that go without saying?).

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